The CompTIA A+ certification is one of the most popular information technology training options in the world, and also one of the most comprehensive and widely recognized. Even if you’re just looking to learn more about the world of computers, it’s an excellent – albeit appropriately challenging – place to start.

CompTIA stands for the Computing Technology Industry Association. While a lot of other IT training programs are vendor specific, CompTIA’s A+ training is vendor neutral, meaning it will provide you with knowledge that will help you operate and service all kinds of technology, instead of just some specific brands or applications. Most often, A+ certification is the de facto starting point for IT professionals who are looking to break into the industry. Being A+ certified is a pre-requisite for most entry-level IT jobs, meaning employers will probably be looking for it at the top of your resume.

A+ certification is achieved by passing two different exams, with each covering different topics as they relate to IT and computers. The first exam, 220-1001 (Core 1), covers mobile devices, networking, virtualization and cloud computing, hardware troubleshooting, and network troubleshooting. The second exam, 220-1002 (Core 2), covers operating systems, security, software troubleshooting, and operational procedures.

Both exams are 90 minutes long with a maximum of 90 questions, and both are now available in hundreds of different languages. Upon completion, you will be graded a score from 100-900. The Core 1 exam requires a grade of 675 to pass, while the Core 2 requires 700 or higher.

There are no time or order restrictions on passing both exams, meaning that you could complete Core 2 before completing Core 1. However, it is important to note that CompTIA usually updates the exams on a three-year cycle, and new exams are expected sometime in 2022*. Completing one exam from the previous cycle – released in January 2019* – and one exam from the new cycle will not get you A+ certified.

A+ exams consist of several different kinds of questions. As you might expect, there will be many multiple-choice questions. In addition, there will also be performance-based questions, such as having to complete a task, answer a question with your own words, command line matching (you’ll know what this is by the time you take the exam), and drag-and-drop questions.

The same kinds of tips that work well for other exams also work well for the A+. Time management during the exam is crucial – if you come across a question you aren’t sure about, just skip it and come back later. Also be sure to re-read all questions and do your best to make sure you’re answering what is really being asked of you.

Another great tip is to check the A+ exam learning objectives prior to taking the tests. A+ objectives can be found both online and in print, and they will tell you basically everything you need to know to pass the exams. If you identify an objective you’re not so sure about, then you know you need to study that topic more before heading into the exam room. It should also be noted that while A+ objectives are usually presented in a specific and systematic order, the questions on the exams will always be re-arranged into a random order.

There are lots of great ways to brush up on your A+ knowledge, such as reading through this guide. In fact, there are many online seminars and video series, many of which can be accessed free of charge. Experts also recommend reading through A+ books, preparing with demo tests, and getting as much hands-on time with IT software and hardware as possible.

When the time comes and you feel ready to take the A+ exams, begin by locating the nearest test centre to you. Once it’s scheduled, take every step you can to make the test day a stress-free day – sleep well, eat well, and maybe try getting on-site a bit early so you can familiarize yourself and study a bit more.

Upon completion of the test, you will immediately learn your results and find out whether or not you passed the exam. If you did pass, it is important to not leave the testing centre before speaking with the administrators to get your credentials. If you do not get your certification then and there, it can be very difficult to get it after the fact.

And that’s all you need to know before you start actually learning! What will follow in this Acing the A+ series is an easily accessible breakdown on what you can expect to learn while preparing for the tests, and how it will benefit you in the world of IT. Have fun!

*A+ Certification information was accurate at time of publishing.

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